Alston Moor Golf Course            Clive Lattimer, staying at Rock House Estate, September 2003

This is to be found a couple of miles out of Alston on the B6277 in the direction of Barnard Castle.

There has been a course in Alston for the past 100 years but it has changed location several times. The current course is about 30 years old. There are ten greens at the moment but with 11 different tees there is some welcome variation between the front and back nine. Nine additional holes are in the process of being built on an adjoining 60 acre plot. Four of these will be opened to members in 2003 with the remaining five by 2005.

There is a club house with changing facilities, a very large car park and an honesty box system for green fees. The fee of £12 per day is placed in one of the envelopes provided and this is then posted into the safe below. This is all done in the car park right next to the first tee. It could not be simpler.

The course is hilly and exposed. Both days I played were more windy than normal but I was told that it is rarely calm. The combination of wind & slope made club selection very difficult and encouraged the low punched shot rather than the high flier.

I played in late September at the end of the extended drought so the fairways were not at their best. However they were less worn than many southern courses due to the lower usage. I played mid morning yet there was only one other group on the course!

The greens are natural. When I played in late September they had clearly suffered in the drought and were not to the highest club standard. However they were quite playable and I suspect in normal circumstances they would have been similar to the type of greens found in Scotland. They are undulating and many have severe slopes which I found difficult to read. I three putted more times than I would like to admit.  It is vital to drive to where one can hit the correct approach shot. Even then, stopping the ball on the relatively small greens is difficult and stopping a long iron next to the pin almost impossible. For this reason the course plays much longer than the 5500 yardage might suggest.

The first hole is a downhill 376 yd par 4 with OB on the left and trees on the right.  This should be an easy start but watch out for the prevailing wind!

The second hole is a 195 yd par 3. I thought it would play short since it is down hill but the wind again seemed to play tricks and I found it played its full length. However I would suggest you play to hit about 180 yards and allow the ball to run down the slope onto the green.

The third is an interesting 340 yard par 4 with a severe slope left to right and a sharp dog leg, also from left to right. Hit your drive long and left and the ball will roll down to leave you a wedge to the green. Hit a short drive right and you are left with an  impossible blind shot over trees to a tiny green with trouble all round it.

The fourth is a 410 yard par 4 with OB on left and right. There is a ditch almost all around the green making it difficult to hit the green and stop the ball from less than 150 yards. So a long drive is needed if you want to make par.

The fifth hole is 150 yd par 3. I was unable to  hit this green in 4 attempts. On reflection I think this is one that needs a punched shot if the wind is blowing from the right since the alternative is to aim close to the OB. I was not feeling that brave!

The sixth is a 476 par 5. It is steeply up hill with lots of trouble to negotiate. Don’t be fooled by the yardage. It deserves its stroke index 1. To have any chance of reaching this in 2 you must carry a ravine at the corner of a dog leg. It’s a long way and the slightest mistake can easily lose you two shots. It’s a great hole.

The seventh is a 129 yd par three which again seemed to play long in the wind.

The eighth is a 496 par 5 which is reachable in two. However to do so one has to fly over trees at about 200 yards. OK if the wind is with you as it was when I played.

The ninth is difficult 189 par 3 with trees to the left of a small undulating well protected green. It is index 11 so I guess there is a way to play it. But I did not find it!

The back 9 uses 8 of the greens used in the front 9. The exception is the 5th which is not used again. Instead the 14th is a par version of the 6th hole using a completely different tee which takes out the dog leg.

To make up the 9 there is a 150 yard par 3 17th across a ravine. This is more uphill than it looks and the wind seems to blow the ball down. It needs more club than you might imagine.

The 18th is also different from the 9th since the 17th takes you to a new tee position. This creates a dog leg 275 yd par 4. No chance of driving the green. The trees on the dog leg are two high and the green set to close behind them. However a good drive and a pitch gives a better chance of a par than the 9th does.

Overall I found the course enjoyable and challenging. I would recommend a powered trolley!